Thursday, 18 September 2014

Porphyry - On the Cave of the Nymphs 4

The Double entrance symbolises the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The tropic of Cancer  is related to Summer and the  Moon and is the North gate where the souls descend ; The tropic of Capricorn is related to Winter and Saturn, and is South gate of ascent. Ascent is related to liberation, for example, the Roman Saturnalia festival is therefore related to the Southern Tropic and features elements of divesting of garments symbolising the return to pristine felicity, the fountain of life. The entrances are said be aligned with the North-South tropic rather than the East-West/Aries-Libra equinoctial axis because Sothis, the Dog-Star is near Cancer and related to the new moon, thus a symbol of generation.

Then he gives some rather specific astrological data related to Mithras: "Hence, a place near to the equinoctial circle was assigned to Mithra as an appropriate seat. And on this account he bears the sword of Aries, which is a martial sign. He is likewise carried in the Bull, which is the sign of Venus. For Mithra. as well as the Bull, is the Demiurgus and lord of generation (note 13). But he is placed near the equinoctial circle, having the northern parts on his right hand, and the southern on his left. They likewise arranged towards the south the southern hemisphere because it is hot; but the northern hemisphere towards the north, through the coldness of the north wind." (11)

Porphyry then goes on to examine various uses of cave entrance symbolism from various traditions. Caves were consecrated to gods. For example in Crete, the Curetes dedicated a cavern to Zeus. The month Januarius is said to derive from the word janua meaning gate, related therefore to Aquarius. There is a temple cave in Arcadia dedicated to the moon and one in Lyceum dedicated to Pan, as well as one in Naxos dedicated to Dionysos. Parmenides makes mention of the two celestial gates.

The north entrance is related to Boreas, the North wind, therefore the myth of the rape of Orythyia by Boreas who beget Zetis and Calais is related to this symbolic nexus of the descent and return of souls. He relates the ancient belief that disembodied souls reside in the milky way,( a passage that is linked to chapter twelve of the Commentary on "Scipio's Dream" by Macrobius, which further explains the descent of the soul through the seven planets):
"According to Pythagoras, also, the people of dreams (note 19). are the souls which are said to be collected in the galaxy, this circle being so called from the milk with which souls are nourished when they fall into generation. Hence, those who evocate departed souls, sacrifice to them by a libation of milk mingled with honey; because, through the allurements of sweetness they will proceed into generation: with the birth of man, milk being naturally produced"(13)